KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that Ukraine has received confirmation of participation in the implementation of the recovery plan from many states, but Estonia was the first to start implementing the project, the Ukrainian media channel Unian reports.
Zelensky met with the newly appointed Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, who made his first foreign visit to Ukraine.
The head of state thanked the minister for this signal of solidarity with Ukraine. At the same time, he noted that there is no need to prove support from Estonia, as Ukrainians know about it and appreciate it.
"We are grateful for the support of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Real support, not words. Support with real steps," the president said.
Zelensky noted that during Reinsalu's visit, a capsule was laid in the border town of Ovruch in the Zhytomyr region on the occasion of the start of the construction of the first kindergarten within the Fast Recovery Plan. This is the first of 15 objects of general infrastructure that the Zhytomyr Regional State Administration submitted for consideration by the Estonian government for assistance in the reconstruction of the region.
"All the reconstruction -- we understand that it is a large amount of money, a lot of work and a long time, and the main work will be held after the end of the war. But there is emergency help that is needed now, before the beginning of the school year, the educational process. This is the construction and restoration of schools and kindergartens, universities, as well as homes for forcibly displaced persons," the president said.
"I want to thank you for starting this process. This is the first occasion for us. We are grateful your country started this work. I am grateful to the government of Estonia and Estonians," Zelensky added.
The president separately reminded that this is not the only case when Estonia is the first to provide support to Ukraine. It was one of the first states that supported Ukraine in the matter of providing weapons.
"This is the most important priority on the battlefield today. And this was especially tangible at the very beginning of the war, when the world was not yet united by its help. But there were several countries that helped from the first day," he said.
In addition, Zelensky emphasized the importance for Ukraine of Estonia's consistent support for the sanctions policy against the aggressor country, as well as for the European integration course of our country.
Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu was in Kyiv on Wednesday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk, and discuss the brutal war of the Kremlin regime in Ukraine and express unwavering support for Ukraine.
In his meetings with Zelensky and Shmyhal, Reinsalu underlined that despite Russia’s continued inhumane war in Ukraine, we must begin reconstruction in the country. "We must stop making promises and get to work," Reinsalu said at the meeting with Shmyhal. "Winter is coming and many people have no shelter due to the destruction caused by Russia. The time to get to work is now."
Reinsalu added that the price of the aggression must be made as severe as possible for Russia. "We will continue making proposals for more severe and efficient sanctions. We must also jointly prevent Russia from evading sanctions," the minister said.
In order to reinforce sanctions, the European Union adopted the seventh sanctions package in late July, which included an import ban on gold, the second main export of Russia after energy carriers. "The seventh sanctions package is not enough. We must continue working on additional sanctions on Russia’s energy carriers," Reinsalu said. He added that Russia needed to pay for its damage in Ukraine and Russia’s frozen assets should be used for this purpose.
"With its brutal war in Ukraine, Russia has violated all principles of international law and is subject to paying reparations," he noted. "We have a moral duty to hold war criminals and aggressors accountable. The credibility of the rules-based order depends on it," Reinsalu said.
At the meetings, Reinsalu welcomed the historic June decision of the European Union to give Ukraine candidate country status. "My aim at the meetings was to find out what kind of specific assistance in which area Ukraine needs on its path to the EU," he said, adding Estonia also supported Ukraine’s accession to NATO.
The state and people of Estonia have provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid worth nearly 20 million euros in total, and defense assistance worth almost 245 million euros -- a third of Estonia’s annual defense budget. More than 48,000 Ukrainians -- nearly 3.7 percent of Estonia’s population -- have fled to Estonia to escape Russia’s brutality.
"Today I saw Ukraine’s strength. Ukraine is not tired,” Reinsalu said on Wednesday. "We must also not get tired. Russia must lose this war."